“Just let me take a peek!” UWVSA and LVSA bring the heat in Ignite Performance


The Vietnamese Student Associations (VSA) from both UW and Wilfrid Laurier University brought the heat with their performance at the 26th Annual Ignite Showcase, hosted by UVSA Eastern Canada at the North York Meridian Arts Centre in Toronto. This year’s theme, Traditional Literature, was exceptionally entertaining, with each assigned story having their main characters engaging in infidelity, fornication, and acts of perversion.

Figo Pham of UW’s VSA and Alex Le of Laurier’s VSA were this year’s co-directors in charge of creating a rendition of Dumb Luck by Vũ Trọng Phụng to perform on the big stage. The novel, as Pham explained, focuses heavily on how Vietnamese people during the French Colonial era were put by the West on a pedestal and “cared more about money and fame rather than family values.” Such satirical criticism was seen as taboo during that time, and ultimately led to the book being banned from publication by the Vietnamese Communist Party until 1986.

Taking inspiration from its themes, the co-directors sought to recreate the narrative’s exaggerated and ironic humour in their portrayal of the perverted Xuân Tóc Đỏ during his rise to high society and his repeated entanglements with a family eagerly awaiting the death of their wealthy grandfather. Their creative process prioritized a lighthearted and unserious tone as opposed to dramatic and emotionally moving scenes — a decision that ultimately led to some of the funniest scenes of the night.

When asked about any moments that he was particularly proud of, Pham recalled “the part where [Xuân and Cô Tuyết, the granddaughter of the family] start looking at each other, and then [‘You Are My Everything’] started playing.” A reference to an iconic scene in the popular Korean drama series Descendants of the Sun, this scene was an instant crowd favourite and prompted lots of shouts and gasps of recognition from the audience.

The hilarious plot was also supplemented by Pham, Le, and Jacquelyn Nguyen’s skillful covers of select Vietnamese songs such as “609060” by Tóc Tiên and “Chuyển Kênh” by Ngọt. While singing was not originally part of the script, Nguyen had impressed Pham and Le so much during her casting that they had created a singing role especially for her and a rapping part for Pham to “make it make sense” and tie it all together.

“In terms of performance, I feel like that was the best one that we had throughout the whole rehearsal,” Pham said. “I feel like it kind of helped that, like, we had this mentality of ‘Oh, we’re just having fun.’”   

It was a tough year with the University of Guelph and the University of Western Ontario both competing as well, and ultimately Western took home the gold with their poignant depiction of a classic war tragedy. Regardless of the outcome, however, the collaborative effort between UWVSA and LVSA showcased immense creativity, talent, and dedication. Their camaraderie and commitment to enjoying the process was palpable both on and off the stage, and they hope to keep this attitude and return victorious next year.